ALS: “Your assistance in regard to Rienzi”
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WAGNER, RICHARD. (1813-1883).German composer; creator of some of the greatest operas of all time, including Götterdämmerung, Tristan und Isoldeand Der Fliegende Holländer. ALS. (“Richard Wagner”). 1p. 8vo. Venice, December 15, 1858. To a male friend.
“It is of great importance to me to know, at the earliest possible moment, what you have accomplished and if I may count upon your assistance in regard to Rienziand whatever for me is connected with it. If you have not succeeded then I must acknowledge that I can no more understand in what interest the theater is now being conducted and must be guided thereby in the future. Therefore please let me know as soon as possible providing you have nothing far better for me. Yours respectfully…”
Rienzi, written in 1840 and one of Wagner’s earliest works, is notable for its French Grand Opera style, an aesthetic vastly different from Wagner’s subsequent operas. In fact, despite its successful 1842 premier and its ongoing popularity, Wagner later renounced the work, though it helped him earn a post as conductor at Dresden during the 1840s. “In 1845-46 pecuniary troubles again began to press upon Wagner. The success of Rienzi had naturally led him to hope that his operas would soon find their way to the leading theatres. To facilitate this he had entered into an agreement with a firm of music publishers (C.F. Meser, Dresden) to print the pianoforte scores of Rienzi and the Holländer… The results, however, proved disastrous. Issued at high prices, and by publishers whose business relations were not very extensive, the editions did not sell well, and Wagner became liable for a considerable sum,” (The New Grove Dictionary).
Adding to his troubles, in 1849, Wagner’s participation in Dresden’s May uprising led to a warrant for his arrest and precipitated his flight to Zurich. There he found a patron, silk merchant Otto Wesendonck, who afforded him the opportunity to work on Der Ring des Nibelungen and, beginning in 1854, Tristan und Isolde. Wagner’s interest in the theme of adulterous love may have been influenced by his love affair with Wesendonck’s wife Mathilde. After Wagner’s wife Minna discovered an amorous letter, Wagner left Zurich and, in August 1858, moved to Venice. During 1858-1859, in what would be the first of six trips to Venice, Wagner composed much of Tristan und Isolde’s second act. In fact, scholars have asserted that the “vocalizing of the gondoliers might also have influenced the shape of the cor anglais lament that features so tellingly in Act III. And although Venice couldn’t always provide the exact opposite of those wearing German climatic conditions that Wagner craved… he must have found the mixture of admiration and incomprehension that came his way in such a place intriguing and therefore stimulating,” (“Music and Venice” book review Music & Letters). It was during his final trip to Venice that Wagner died unexpectedly of a heart attack on February 13, 1883.
Our letter, written while he was in political exile, possibly concerns royalties for performances of Rienzi which, alongside Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, had only begun reappearing on the Dresden stage during 1858 and 1859.
Written on a folded sheet, with some uneven toning and wear. Light mounting traces on the verso and in very good condition.
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